Topic overview

Sales presentations

A saleman makes a presentation to interested clients

A sales presentation is a great chance to progress or even complete a sale. The audience has already shown at least some interest by allowing you to make your sales pitch to them. It's up to you to make the most of the opportunity to make a truly effective presentation.

Sales presentation planning

Advance planning can make all the difference for a business presentation. To start with, you need to know who your audience will be so that you can tailor your presentation to their wants and interests. A technical briefing for experts will be quite different to a high-level sales presentation to the customer's managing director.

Once you know the audience, you can decide what you can reasonably aim to achieve. Not all sales presentations try to make an immediate sale: your objective might be to create interest. Establish the overall message that you want the presentation to get across: for example, that you offer something that your competitors don't.

Before getting into any detailed planning of the presentation, try to get an idea of what the customer is expecting. Are you going to give a formal sales pitch or hold a more open discussion? How long will the meeting be?

Structuring your sales presentation

A good selling presentation focuses on a few key points that you need to get across to support your overall message. The key points are put together in a logical argument, together with any supporting evidence or visual aids that will make your presentation more convincing.

One of the best known of all presentation tips is to say everything three times. So as well as the main body of your presentation, you introduce your key points at the beginning and summarise them again at the end.

Once you have the structure organised, it's worth drawing up notes you can speak from - not a full script - and practising. Try to build some flexibility into your presentation in case a particular point doesn't work well, you run short of time or the system on which you planned to show your visual aids isn't working.

Once you are happy wth your presentation, sit with a blank sheet of paper and write down and answer any questions you think you may be asked. Ask a trusted friend to listen to your speech and get them to ask you some questions too. Ask them to give you feedback on your answers to their questions. Is there anything you have not made clear?

Delivering an effective sales presentation

It's natural to be nervous when you are about to deliver the presentation. Try to use this nervous energy to give your presentation life and enthusiasm. Deep breaths before you start and a conscious effort to speak slowly can help overcome the appearance of nerves, as can confident body language and projecting your voice.

Even if you're delivering a formal sales presentation, you should aim to engage the audience rather than just speaking at them. Regularly look for eye contact with your audience. If appropriate, ask them questions and use their names to involve them. Try to avoid distractions such as giving them handouts during the presentation or being interrupted by ringing phones.

Once you have finished your presentation, you should encourage feedback and any further questions. If you're asked any questions, decide how best to deal with them. You may need to answer a question straight away to overcome a potential objection, but detailed points can often be left until after your planned presentation. From time to time you will be asked questions you don’t know the answer to. It is best, in these circumstances, to be honest and open rather than bluff or waffle. A suitable response might be: “I don’t have that information to hand right now, but if you leave your contact details with me, I will send it through to you later today.”

Don’t dismiss or brush off questions. Listen carefully and you will be able to answer both the initial query and address any underlying barriers to making a sale.

Last but not least, make sure you agree what the next step will be.

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